Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Me-Ouch | On my list of cultural milestones that I need to experience before I die, a Garfield movie ranks somewhere below a Creed box set, Lethal Weapon 12: Riggs's Flatulence, Murtaugh's Incontinence, and CSI: Gary, Indiana. Yet one of history's all-time unfunniest comic strips will indeed come to the big screen next month.

This is as naked a money grab as I've seen a long time. Jim Davis, if there is such a person, is surely wealthy beyond any sane person's wildest dreams at this point, thanks to the titanic licensing fees he's managed to accrue for his painfully mediocre strip. (More likely is that "Jim Davis" now comprises a dozen or so recent college graduates whose job is to write lame gags and execute the strip's simple line drawings, all in hopes of jumping to the Yes, Dear writing staff some day; meanwhile the real Davis uses $100 bills to light Cuban cigars while he tosses the kids a few shekels for their time.) Has anyone been clamoring for a Garfield movie? Even the dorks who suction-cupped Garfield dolls to their cars back in the '80s have moved on by now.

That's why it's been so gratifying to see the strip Pearls Before Swine take a few swings at Davis and Garfield. Usually I find that Pearls pushes its eccentricity a little too hard, like the Far Side knockoffs of a decade and a half ago, resulting in a forced but not especially funny three panels. But this week's series has seen Stephan Pastis indulge in a rare bit of fellow-cartoonist bashing. It won't keep Davis from stealing even more scratch once the film opens, but I do give Pastis props for calling it like it is.

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